I was already halfway on my trip around Northern Luzon.

Even though it was nighttime and I still hadn’t found a place to stay for the night, arriving safely in Laoag City was such a relief.

Two hours prior, I risked a solo visit to the Kapurpurawan White Rock. Luckily, I encountered a traveling couple and hitched a ride back to the highway.

From there, it was just an hour ride to Laoag, the capital city of Ilocos Norte. Back to civilization!

Laoag Provincial Capitol at night

Arrival in Laoag, Ilocos Norte

I’ve been pretty OC (obsessive compulsive) planning my travel itineraries. This time, however, I forgot to list down hostels in Laoag City. Not knowing where to spend the night scares me  (especially when it’s already dark) . In these cases, I just let my urban survival instincts take over.

I remind myself that Laoag isn’t Manila. People are generally helpful and trustworthy in the provinces. From the bus terminal, I hopped in a tricycle to get to the city center.

Pichay Lodge

The tricycle driver dropped me off at Pichay Lodge after asking about places to stay in town. The cheapest room at Pichay Lodge was P350 / night for a fan room with private TB.

The room at Pichay Lodge was spacious enough, could probably fit two persons, but it looked very dusty and the CR was not maintained well. I was already tired and didn’t want to go searching for a hostel at night, so I paid for the room anyways.

I get frustrated traveling solo in the Philippines because I mostly pay for rooms that are good for at least two people. Solo travel is uncommon here and accommodations take up a bigger part of my budget than what I would’ve liked. If I were traveling in a group I could have stayed in an more decent place for the same amount or less.

Went out for dinner. The plaza area was just a few blocks away. My spirits shot back up as I saw the Ilocos Norte Provincial Capitol. Got excited thinking about places I’d be visiting the next day.

Laoag Poblacion

The city proper of Laoag City still follow the typical Spanish-colonial setup. At the center is the public plaza. It is surrounded by the provincial capitol, city hall, and the cathedral. It’s great to see these structures still existing and in good condition.

Tobacco Monopoly Monument at the Laoag City Plaza

Ilocos Norte Provincial Capitol

Facade of the Ilocos Norte Provincial Capitol

Laoag City Sinking Bell Tower. Decided to visit the Laoag Church later in the day.

Sarrat, Ilocos Norte

The free WiFi at McDo helped me plan out my itinerary for the day. Looking at google maps, I got an idea what direction to go for jeepneys going out of the city. I followed Rizal St. and caught a jeepney bound for Sarrat, located 30 minutes west of Laoag City.

The town of Sarrat is known for its exquisite old church and as the birthplace of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

Sarrat Church

Like the one in Laoag, the bell tower of the Sarrat Churchstands separate from the main church structure. Having just visited the Tumauini Church set the bar high for my appreciation of brick churches. I wasn’t so much impressed by the Sarrat Church facade. The convent looked more interesting.

Sarrat Church Belfry

Sarrat Church Facade  (Santa Monica Parish) 

Buttresses of the Sarrat Church 

Sarrat Parish Convent

Oddly engouh, what caught my attention was the arch bridge connecting the church to the convent. I loved how the morning light turned the foliage overgrowth into a blinding neon green color.

Arch bridge of Sarrat Church and Convent

Red bricks seem to be commonplace in many of the heritage structures in Sarrat.

Sarrat Municipality Agrarian Reform Office

Old houses lining the streets of Sarrat

Sarrat Municipal Hall

Marcos Museum

Ohh… a building named after me :) The Marcos Museum was closed during my visit.

Spending my first morning in Laoag and Sarrat was a success. There’s a lot of old structures in Ilocos Norte. What I liked most was that many are clustered in a small area. In the Laoag for example, you could have a convenient tour of the heritage buildings just by walking around the plaza area.

… next up is my visit to one of the most famous churches in the archipelago – the Paoay Church.